When Illia Ovcharenko sits at the piano to perform before competition juries and global audiences, he reminds himself it’s all about the joy.
Last year, 22-year-old Ovcharenko won the 2022 Honens International Piano Competition, one of the world’s most lucrative and prestigious piano prizes. Sadly, that same year, Ovcharenko’s family home in Chernihiv, Ukraine, was bombed by Russian forces, and the young prodigy struggled to make music in the wake of sorrow.
“Whenever I go on stage now, I think of everyone in Ukraine, and I don’t get nervous,” he says from Hannover, Germany, where he is pursuing a master’s degree. “They have suffered so much. I play for them because what I do brings joy, and we need to bring joy into the world.”
The Honens competition is multi-layered and rigorous – and the benefits of participation are great. First prize comes with a $100,000 purse, but the real draw is the three-year Honens Artist Development Program, which includes professional management and appearances in some of the world’s most important recital series.
These recitals, supported by a grant from the Azrieli Foundation, will introduce Ovcharenko to international agents, the audiences of storied concert houses and editors at influential music publications.
“What’s extraordinary about Illia is that his artistic understanding and potential have already caught up with his technical skill,” says Honens Artistic Director Jon Kimura Parker. “That’s rare in so young an artist. And that’s what the jury responded to.”
As part of his Debut Series engagements, Ovcharenko played to a packed audience at Carnegie Hall in February 2023, during which he showcased two Ukrainian composers. In spring, he hopes to release two piano recordings.
With support from his family in Ukraine, the expertise of his Honens family and the guidance of the Artist Development Program, he can concentrate on what he does best: bringing delight through music.